Justia guest columnist and law professor at Touro Law Center in Central Islip, New York, Rodger Citron reviews Errol Morris’s book on one of the most infamous murders in American history, in which Army doctor Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of the 1970 killing of his wife and two daughters. MacDonald, however, has consistently maintained that not he, but four intruders, committed the murders, and has pointed to the stab wound he incurred, which punctured his lung, as evidence of his claim. MacDonald is still in prison, but should he be? Citron considers the evidence.
Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the current, unfortunate state of American government—paralyzed by inaction, even in the midst of a troubled economy. In his analysis of the situation, Dean draws upon Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein’s work It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism. Dean deems the book to be a very important one to read, especially for Republicans, for part of the current problem, according to Dean, and to Mann and Ornstein, is the intransigence and the growing extremism of the Republican Party. Another part of the problem, they argue, is the sorry state of contemporary American journalism. Dean distills some of Mann and Ornstein’s suggestions for addressing the problems that they isolate—and notes that just five changes in the way American journalism is done now could make a profound difference.
Justia guest columnist and Touro law professor Rodger Citron comments on former NPR reporter Snigda Prakash’s recent book on the Vioxx litigation and, especially, the Vioxx trial. The litigation, as Citron explains, followed manufacturer Merck’s withdrawal of Vioxx from the market in the face of evidence that those who took the drug faced an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Citron praises Prakash for making good use of her access to the plaintiffs’ legal team, and offering a vivid, compelling portrait of the trial, but notes that when she admittedly takes sides—beginning to root for the plaintiffs—her journalistic objectivity predictably suffers to some extent. In addition, Citron notes that he would have liked to hear more, in Prakash’s book, about the comprehensive settlement that will be the Vioxx dispute’s lasting legacy.
Justia columnist Joanne Mariner, an attorney and the head of Hunter College’s Human Rights Program, comments on the memoir of David Hicks, an Australian who was incarcerated at the United States’ Guantanamo Bay detention facility for five-and-a-half years. Mariner notes that Hicks’s Guantanamo memoir is now one of many such works that detail interrogation practices and detention conditions at the facility. She also points out the book has recently made headlines due to the Australian government’s attempt to confiscate the royalties Hicks earned from his publisher, citing Australia’s Proceeds of Crime Act. Mariner notes the parallel between that Act and the United States’ “Son of Sam” laws, which the U.S. Supreme Court has occasionally held to be in violation of the First Amendment, and she explains other troubling aspects of the attempt to apply Australia’s Act to Hicks.
Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci A. Hamilton urges that the Catholic Church urgently needs to take responsibility—and foster an ethic of accountability—regarding clergy child-sex-abuse cases. In describing the path that she argues the Church must take, Hamilton compliments a recent speech by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, and a book by Jason Berry on money and the Church. As she explains, these writings, too, call for responsibility and accountability from the Church, and for the enforcement of civil law by the courts, in clergy child-sex-abuse cases.